IN ST. PETER'S
In the thronged
square of St. Peter's last week Pope Pius XII sat and watched a basketball game
(see page 24). It was the first time since the Renaissance that any kind of
sport had been presented in that beautiful and historic quadrangle. Beforehand,
the Pope addressed the throng on the subject of sport for 25 minutes.
It was not an
impromptu address but obviously a long-considered one. The widespread interest
in sport, said Pope Pius, is one of the "phenomena of modern society."
How is it to be regarded? The 79-year-old Pope answered as one who, when a
young man, was skilled in riding and swimming and who, when he succeeded Pius
XI (the mountain climber), installed a gymnasium in the Vatican.
Pope Pius told
his listeners that he finds in the objectives of sport a parallel to the
artistic ideals which made St. Peter's itself:
harmony, order and beauty, effort, victory and the renown of achieving a
record, expressed in artistic form by the incomparable architecture of the
dome, of the facade, of the colonnade and the obelisk; they are the ideal goals
longed for by every athlete."
prudence in the selection of a sport within the physical means of the would-be
athlete, and he cautioned against too much emphasis on technique at the expense
alone," he said, "not only impedes the acquirement of those spiritual
boons which sport has for its aim to achieve but, even when leading to victory,
it satisfies neither him who employs it nor those who attend to enjoy the
contests.... In general, whenever there be a question of human activity, the
point of departure and of arrival must always be the psychic element; in other
words, spirit must predominate over technique. Make use of technique, but let
the spirit prevail."
And he summed
up, in the precise language of the Vatican, what every sportsman hopes his son
might learn from, say, football: "...loyalty that excludes taking refuge in
subterfuges, docility and obedience to the wise commands of the director
charged with the training of the team, the spirit of self-renunciation when one
has to fade into the background in order that the interests of the team may
thereby be furthered, fidelity to obligations undertaken, modesty in victory,
sereneness in adverse fortune, patience towards spectators who are not always
moderate, justice if the competitive sport is bound up with financial interests
resultant from voluntary agreements, and in general chastity and temperance
already recommended by the ancients themselves.
"Will such a
spiritual and almost ascetical concept of sport be harmful to technical
perfection?" he asked.
contrary! From many sides recently there has been invoked the return on the
part of athletes to 'pure' sport, that is to that finality and to those methods
which have nothing in common with 'commercialism' and the exaggerated cult
attributed to so-called 'stars,' to which are sacrificed high ideals, justice,
the health of the athletes and the good name of the nation being represented in